This is the return of Dwayne Haskins. The decision to expel quarterback Alex Smith for straining his right calf opened the door to Haskins, the former starter on the bench, to prove he’s grown in the eleven weeks since his demotion. While sitting at Haskins, Coach Ron Rivera said there were plans to get into the NFC East race that Washington is now leading. However, in later public comments from Rivera and others, it became clear that Haskins was put on the bench over concerns about his preparation and work ethic.

The question now: what, if anything, has changed?

In the second half against the San Francisco 49ers in Arizona last week, Haskins looked very much like he did earlier in the year, finishing 7 for 12 for 51 yards. But now he’s been training for a week and Rivera has said the schedule will be tailored to him. The impact is significant. Perhaps if Haskins is showing progress, that is an indication that he could be Washington’s franchise quarterback. If not, one can wonder how patient the coaching team can be.

Haskins knows he’s under scrutiny. There are reasons for optimism, including comments from the coaching staff and teammates this week about Haskin’s improved maturity and the Seahawks’ miserable pass protection. But there are also some reasons for concern, the likely lack of running back Antonio Gibson as an offensive addition, and Haskins’ throwing mechanics among them. Haskins stressed several times on Friday that he wanted to seize the moment by controlling what he could.

“I’m looking forward to getting back out there and playing ball again,” he said. “At the end of the day it should be about playing football. It should be fun. I’ve been playing quarterback since I was ten. I’m just trying to make it easy again, make it fun and find ways to keep getting better. “

The difficulty of the Seahawks, who are 9-4 and playing for the top seed of the NFC, being Haskins’ first opponent when the starter didn’t seem to bother him.

“Who wouldn’t want to play the Seahawks and Russell Wilson?” he asked. “I’m looking forward to playing against it [safety] Jamal Adams and [linebacker] Bobby Wagner. “

No coach is more successful against Ron Rivera than Pete Carroll. According to Sportradar, Rivera has played against 19 coaches at least three times in his 10-year career, and his worst grade is against Carroll (1-5). However, it’s worth noting that every but one game ended with the final score within a touchdown. The only time Rivera beat Carroll was Week 6 in 2015, when the Carolina Panthers won in Seattle (27-23) during their run to the Super Bowl.

“I think he has a really good sense of his team and the way his team approaches every team they play against,” said Rivera. “It’s one of those things. We’ll see how things start. Very rarely do you ever see them blown out just because of the type of soccer team he has. “

Washington’s defense will be particularly vulnerable against Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. This week, Team Deshazor placed Everett in the injured reserve and eliminated two of its top three linebackers, Cole Holcomb (concussion) and Kevin Pierre-Louis (ankle). There will be significant sales in key positions defending the passport.

In free safety, Washington is likely to reach out to Jeremy Reaves, a South Alabama third year professional who has played limited snaps in the last three games. With Linebacker, it’s possible Thomas Davis Sr. and Shaun Dion Hamilton see more snaps than they have seen all season. The Seahawks can be dangerous if they throw too tight ends and run back, which is a difficult matchup for a group that sometimes struggles.

Block Jamal Adams. Seattle security broke a 15-year record last week when it hit 8.5 sacks, the most any defender has ever had. Haskins understands the threat Adams poses – what was then New York Jets’ security fired him three times in November 2019 – and Adams has only improved since then. Seattle has been struggling to put pressure off the edge since Jadeveon Clowney was able to leave in the off-season, and they have turned to creative lightning packages for Adams to make up for that.

Washington still has the inside information in the division – but this is an important weekend. The New York Giants, one game back, will host Cleveland on Sunday night. Philadelphia, 1½ games back, is in Arizona. If Washington loses, it opens the door for both teams; If the Giants win they’ll be back in first place, and if the Eagles win they’ll be half a game back.

The Eagles and Giants are outsiders, as is Washington. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (thigh / ankle) is questionable, and for Philadelphia the big question is whether rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts can maintain the success he had at the Saints last week.

Injury Report: This is possibly Washington’s driest of the year. The team lacks its starting quarterback, its second best offensive player and two of its three best linebackers. Sunday will be the biggest test of Washington’s depth yet, which Rivera has stressed all season.

The most famous names on the Seahawks’ list are Brandon Shell and Carlos Dunlap, both classified as questionable. “I’d be surprised if either game played,” Tacoma News Tribune beatwriter Gregg Bell wrote on Twitter, citing Cedric Ogbuehi as the likely substitute for the correct tackle.

The other five players in the Seattle injury report are reserves. Travis Homer (knee), Jamarco Jones (groin) and Phil Haynes (guard) are outside. Safety Damarious Randall (foot) and cornerback Jason Stanley (shoulder) are in doubt.